It’s time to say enough to the doom loop
Molineaux is co-publisher of The Fulcrum and president/CEO of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund.
When I read the Hugo Gurdon editorial in the Washington Examiner, I saw clearly how Gurdon is captured by the blame game. Then I read the Robert Kuttner piece on moving past neoliberalism and I was struck by his blaming the “elite power” for the destruction of jobs, communities and families. Together, these two editorials were being discussed by a group of colleagues who advocate for “bridging skills.” Bridging skills are a mix of mediation, therapeutic and social skills that can help us address the complex issues of our time. Bridging divides starts with human connection. It’s a lifelong practice for me.
Part of why these two editorials – one from a conservative perspective and the other from a progressive perspective – matter to the United States, is that the writers are caught in the doom loop of the politics industry where every issue is seen from the lens of war; a battle to be fought and ultimately decided by citizens at the ballot box. Hopefully.
I have found this framing of politics as “warfare” to be troubling. We’ve devolved into hyperbole – the sensationalism and exaggeration – of political speech to gain and capture our attention. But politics is not equivalent to war. Ukraine has war and people are dying in battle.
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We have a political power struggle that is shaping our culture, our mindsets and influencing our relationships. Just like a dysfunctional family, there are people who have more or less power. And as part of We the People ask for a power redistribution, there is resistance and a sense of “not being safe” should those who hold power be forced to share. This internal human fear about having power to protect our beliefs and way of life makes us vulnerable to authoritarians who promise to keep us safe. It happened in Germany in the 1930s. It’s happening here, now. The information and culture “wars” are standing in proxy for a real war.
How do we get out of this doom loop and avoid an actual war? Bridging skills are one part of the solution. Training ourselves to step out of the “politics is war” frame to become principled problem-solvers and begin to care for one another – because of our shared humanity. My personal experience with this is documented when I write about interactions I have with strangers (Here, here and here). Any one of us can hone their own skills and use their personal power to break free from the war-narrative we currently live within. When enough of us do, our nation will start to heal. We the People will start to heal.
Gurdon blames the erosion of values he holds dear like patriotism, religion and having children firmly on the Left. In Gurdon’s piece, he never pauses for reflection on why people of all ages might see “patriotism” as “white supremacy” given the insurrection. Or why “religion” may be less popular due to cascading scandals involving child molestation. Perhaps he could examine why a world with a changing climate and less economic hope, may mean that fewer people are willing to have children.
In a nation such as ours, curiosity about why others believe the way they do is essential. As is becoming self-aware of how we each choose to participate in “the culture war” or “the community garden.” Are we wielding our words as weapons? Or planting seeds that will feed our souls?
Where Gurdon blamed the Left, Kuttner blamed the elite neoliberals and residual corporate power. He completely ignores the millions of people who work within corporate systems and that the corporate leaders are also parents and community members, volunteers, neighbors, etc. He strips humanity from corporate leaders and makes victims of all who choose a corporate career path.
Kuttner doesn’t explore the life-affirming language of care and concern. Instead, he perpetuates the concept of a “battle of ideas.” He uses extreme language “demolish,” “abject failure,” “ruinous,” “toxic” and then wonders why the Democrats don’t have the right language to consolidate their power to bring about a post-neoliberal order. *sigh*
In some ways, I feel like a mother in a minivan with screaming children in the backseat, each blaming the other for the spilled drink. I don’t care who did what. I want us to clean it up. Together.
So in my most loving voice, from the edge of exasperation, I say. “Enough.”
If We the People have to pull the van over to correct the situation, we will. This could take the form of a general strike (like Israel) or street protests to protect our civil rights (like Georgia, the country). Or, we could reframe our war-like language blaming “others” and start the cleanup with a solutions focus. Bridging skills like listening to understand, assuming good intentions, focusing on what we want – all of these are helpful to get out of the doom loop. If you want to develop bridging skills, I recommend the National Week of Conversation, April 17-23, 2023. There are hundreds of opportunities.
Most of us would prefer to keep driving the minivan to a better future instead of pulling over to settle the kids.